When a Plan Comes Together

Like many guys who grew up in the ‘80s, I took The A-Team a bit too seriously. Unlike most guys who grew up in the ‘80s, I encouraged my friends to call me Hannibal, with predictable results.

Kids play at being their heroes. Even when we'd laugh at the people surviving a jeep flipping over three times only to be felled by a solid left hook, we secretly thought we could knock someone out with one punch and mug for an unseen camera. In an age where reality bleeds into entertainment, seeping beyond reality shows into gritty dramas, some of this escapism still lingers. Just this past weekend I watched characters walk away from devastating car crashes in The Fast and the Furious without more than a few scrapes.

I wanted to be a hero when I was a kid. I wanted to be Spider-man. I wanted to be Batman. I wanted to be Michael Knight. And I wanted to be Hannibal. I wanted to use my brain to plan out the intricate details of my life, then chomp down on a (candy) cigar and deliver his swaggering boast of victory: “I love it when a plan comes together.” I half expect Michael Scofield to toss that line out on Prison Break, but then for every detail he plans for, there's always something excruciatingly stressful (and entertaining) that goes awry. Besides, the catchphrase may be dead in modern television.

I wanted to be Hannibal, and my friends were the A-team, at least in the third grade. Three other guys were Murdock, Face, and B.A. I even had a female friend for Amy, though I could never bring myself to refer to her by another girl's name in my paralyzing shyness. Whenever I'd pass notes in class about our “plan” for the playground, I'd address her as “Spy”.

Our plans were simple: survive recess and defeat the rogue A-team. Another kid claimed Hannibal-ship and formed a team of his own. I disputed his ludicrous claim; Hannibal was a tall guy with white hair, not a little black kid. The fact that he wasn't a nine-year-old overweight Italian with a high-pitched voice either never bothered me any more than the fact that my Murdock had blond hair or my B.A. was Indian. We were the true A-team. I limited our gang to “five” and cried foul when my rival gathered closer to twenty kids to chase us, so he claimed they were going to be the Renegades instead. The odds didn't matter. A leader didn't give in or quit. My enemy had humiliated me at lunch too many times, especially with his “Don't-hit-him-until-you-see-the-whites-of-his-eyes” game. No matter how tightly I squeezed my eyes shut, the Renegades always saw a corner of white.

Predictably, my gang abandoned me. Some tired of the game, while one or two actually decided it would be more fun on the Renegades. It was all just a game anyway, to everyone but one overly serious youngster. As we left emulating television behind, I held on to Hannibal's penchant for plans. When I started collecting comic books, it wasn't a solitary pursuit. I formed a comic book club in my neighborhood and typed up a weekly newsletter that I'd leave on my friend's doorsteps. It had summaries of the issues I'd read, word puzzles, and sometimes artwork. Can you imagine such a thing? Me sharing words, pictures, puzzles, and general geek interests with people in an organized format on a regular basis? What are the odds?!

I was still trying to be the leader. And in school, especially on the social level, I tried to translate simple things into complex plans. I never simply talked to a girl. There were always steps involved, things that had to be done first. I had to dress better, or get in better shape. Once I tried talking like an adult for a month, but all it amounted to was me adding big words and British phraseology because for some reason I thought that's how adults spoke. Rather pernicious to my anthropological interactions, I must jolly well say. When speech didn't work, I resorted to action, trying to make an impressive frisbee catch just as a girl I liked was walking by. I never timed anything like that right, ever. Yet, when I got punched in the stomach and was doubled over on the ground amid a circle of laughing kids, I'd see her in the crowd. Her look of pity was far worse than the laughter of others. When I saw Little Manhattan a few months ago, I completely related to the kid's plight.

At some point I stopped trying to lead groups of friends, or maybe they stopped following. I think it was a little bit of both. I became less proactive and more reactive. Soon, I planned so many things that I never followed through on, that I eventually stopped making plans. Once I was an untamed current, striving for direction. Now I'm a piece of driftwood, “whatever” etched into my side.

Planning used to excite me. I thought it would be so great when I improved my life by executing A, B, and C. Is such enthusiasm simply the naiveté of youth? Do all sparks flicker and fade with time? I'd love to recapture that, and I realize that at my core, I haven't lost my capacity for planning. I apply lists to my job, and while others determine my deadlines and responsibilities, I figure out and execute solutions. I decided this past weekend, not for the first time, to try the list thing in my personal life. It wasn't anything exciting, but I figured I could pedal faster after I remembered how to maintain my balance. This is what I accomplished from that list:

1) Laundry
2) Play an Italian gig in Queens
3) Take Mom to church
4) Update a few months' worth of archives so font colors are readable against my new background, and so they'll be universally editable in the future through CSS.
5) Finish reading Song of Susannah.
6) Watch and return three movies from Netflix(Die Another Day, The Fast and the Furious, and Castle in the Sky)
7) Finish watching the first boxed set of DVDs for He-man that's been sitting here for over a year.
8) Earn up to $18,000 in Dragonfable(If I ever make it to $25,000 I can buy a Doom Weapon).
9) Spend some time at the beach reading and breathing fresh air.
10) Write something for Saturday and Sunday and collect and post Phantasmic Links for Monday.

And here are the things on my list that I didn't get to:

1) Earn up to $25,000 in Dragonfable.
2) Update all of my archives so font colors are readable against my new background, and so they'll be universally editable in the future through CSS.
3) Finish reading The Dark Tower, A Feast for Crows, and Knife of Dreams(I did read about 20 pages of The Dark Tower; I don't actually own the other two books yet).
4) Finish watching the second boxed set of DVDs for He-man that's been sitting here for a little less than a year.
5) Update a certain nameless career-related document that I foolishly haven't touched in nearly seven years.
6) Comb my blog archives and select posts to highlight as essential for 2K5-2K6, as part of this year's Cloakfest.
7) Take some photographs.

I love it when a plan comes together, but I think there may be some areas where my priorities could use some shifting. I'll come up with a plan for that problem....soon.




Blogger b13 said...

Scary thing is...I think we all had an A-Team as kids. I was always Murdock. DAAA-DA-DA-DAAAAAAA-DUH-DUH-DUUUUUH. :)

10/03/2006 10:28 AM  
Blogger Otis said...

That was a great story.

This is for you, b13, and Darrell.

10/03/2006 9:06 PM  
Blogger b13 said...

ROFLMAO. That is awesome :)

10/03/2006 10:42 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

LOL, that is awesome Otis, thank you.

And as the one holding the camera, I guess this makes you Face?

10/04/2006 12:37 AM  
Blogger Otis said...

Me Face?

Ummm no. Like b13 I was always Murdock. I'm far too homely for Face. I'm so ugly, my dog closes his eyes before he humps my leg.

10/04/2006 8:14 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Of course, I do pity the fool.

10/04/2006 11:14 PM  

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